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The breast reconstruction process is as unique as each person that survives breast cancer. So I preface my comments by saying that my choice and process is my individual choice which does not mean it is right or wrong for anyone else. It was right for me. I hope that this information helps those making decisions and/or their loved ones.

I found the Her2 positive (negative for estrogen or progesterone) breast cancer through a self-breast exam at the age of 43. The first mammogram did not show any abnormalities. My family practitioner continued to push for another mammogram. This mammogram showed a tumor that was very close to the chest wall. It was in the 1st Quadrant of the breast on the left side. (Most breast cancers occur in the right breast and the 4th Quadrant, near underarm.)

I started with chemo and then chose to have a double mastectomy. The reconstruction process was about a 4 month process. The process started with the placement of “expanders“. These basically look like implants without any solution inside. They have a port in them where saline is injected every week or every 2 weeks by the plastic surgeon.

The “expanders” stretch the skin. This prepares the skin for the insertion of the breast implants. It is a delicate process as the skin needs to be stretched just enough to give a realistic appearance to the implants.  

What I didn’t realize was that “just enough” was much larger than my chosen implant size. I couldn’t believe how perky and large those “expanders” were. I actually had a dream that I was in a dark movie theater. I was startled by the movie and jumped. When I jumped the straw from my soda popped my expander and water flooded the theater!

During these 4 months as my “expander” breasts grew I had NO nipples. They were taken with the mastectomy. The plastic surgeon had been able to make a very small fold of skin that could be...could be an artificial nipple. I had no aureola. I never knew how strange this would feel to me everytime I looked in the mirror. This truly was the summer that I had breasts just like “Barbie“!

I never heard, never thought about this part of the process....aureole pigmentation. After the “expanders” were removed my implants were inserted in their place. Several weeks later I had an appointment with a permanent make-up artist. She does aureole pigmentation for breast cancer patients as a free service and a way to give back. She lost her mother to cancer.  

Now, a tattoo where your nipple used to be at first sounds pretty painful. However, by that time I was more accustomed to pain than I ever wanted to be. Also, the loss of sensation in the breast can be a blessing during this step. She did some topical numbing and then the tattoos. There was some discomfort 3 or 4 hours later. However an over-the-counter pain reliever took care of the discomfort.

I never knew the difference that this step would make in my healing process. My new oncologist on first look thought that my nipples had been spared. The artistry of the plastic surgeon AND the artistry of the permanent make-up artist created an amazing 3-D effect.

My “Barbie” Breasts are now long gone. I have my normal size breasts back AND I have nipples. Barbie doesn’t have either. :)

I am attaching a couple of links for reference with information and video. I hope this is helpful.
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Member Comments

    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Max0125 wrote Feb 23, 2010
    • Thank you for an interesting and informative post on post mastectomy reconsturction. I has no idea that you could tatoo picgmentation. Enjoy your Barbie Boobs!



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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Deb B wrote Feb 23, 2010
    • My “Barbie” Breasts are now long gone. I have my normal size breasts back AND I have nipples. Barbie doesn’t have either. :)



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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Nathalie Girard wrote Feb 23, 2010
    • Thank you for this very interesting blog. I never knew about all this.



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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Allinet48 wrote Feb 24, 2010
    • My aunt went thru this years ago. Only thing different was her nipples were sewed on her abdomen or upper thigh and then transplanted back to her breasts.



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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Deb B wrote Feb 24, 2010
    • I hope that your Aunt is doing well!
      The procedures for any breast cancer surgery have changed so much just in the last 5 years let alone.
      What an incredible process she had to save her nipples!

      Depending on the type of cancer, location, age and all the variables they had to consider. Saving my nipples wasn’t an option. The cancer had just gone from DCIS (Ductile Carcinoma In Situ) which was contained inside the milk duct to more aggressive moving cancer outside of the milk ducts. (LCIS, Lobular Carcinoma In situ).

      I hope people will take an opportunity to watch the video of how they create the new nipple. It is quite amazing.

      Best Health to you and your Aunt!



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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Lazylola wrote Feb 24, 2010
    • Very informative, thank you for sharing. heart



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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Bobbi Bacha wrote Feb 24, 2010
    • Very great story.



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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Deb B wrote Feb 24, 2010
    • Thank you! I hope you are able to visit the other websites. One of them shows a discussion/demonstration of aureole pigmentation that was on a local news program.

      Additionally, “My Cancer Experience” offers a before, during and after process with photographs I posted on flickr. Additionally, I journaled with the photos and had a great deal of discussion with all types of people affected by cancer.
      If you know of anyone that could be helped with any of this information please feel free to forward. The purpose for putting the photos and journal on the web was to be able to offer support. I struggled to find “real” positive visuals of people going through this experience.
      Thank you for reading!......Self-Breast exams each week for everyone saves many lives.



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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Marya1961 wrote Feb 25, 2010
    • Thank you for sharing and very happy things are better for you!!..I recall watching a Lifetime movie which starred Sarah Chalke playing a woman who endured chemo and a mastectomy..she had a areola pigmentation tattoo on her breast and it was amazing..breast self-exam is so important.estatic



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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Deb B wrote Feb 25, 2010
    • Thank you for letting me know you found some value in the post.
      I will definitely check out that lifetime movie. I thought I had seen them all :)

      I really like your quotes!



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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Rose Nino wrote Feb 25, 2010
    • Thank you Deb B for sharing your story. You are absolutely beautiful!!  

      heartheart



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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Deb B wrote Feb 25, 2010
    • Thanks Rose. :)



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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Timbuktu wrote Feb 28, 2010
    • Thank you for sharing your story. Enjoy those breasts! I would just say to everybody out there, not only is self examination improtant, see your doctor immediately about anything suspicious. My friend didn’t. In spite of being allied to the medical profession she said nothing for months, and although she got through her mastectomy and chemo, sadly died of liver metastases. if only she had acted earlier.  

      Timbuktu



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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Deb B wrote Feb 28, 2010
    • Timbuktu, I am so sad to hear of the loss of your friend.heartbreak



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